Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31 Riff: All for Haimish

In yesterday’s New York Times, David Brooks wrote an article describing the Yiddish word haimish.  Haimish is the qualities associated with an unpretentious warm environment in which you feel relaxed.  Brooks argues that the fancier or more elegant an establishment—be it a restaurant or a hotel—is the less likely it is to be haimish.  As he puts it, “Often, as we spend more on something, what we gain in privacy and elegance we lose in spontaneous sociability.” 

In the last few years, Duke School has moved into a nicer, prettier and, dare I say it, more elegant campus.  In lots of other ways we have become more professional—online forms, weekly centralized communications and a myriad of other advances.  However, as a school and a community haimish remains important to us.  Learning, dialogue between teacher and parent, and a love of school happen more easily when everyone is comfortable.  In lots of ways, Duke School is dedicating itself to haimish this year.  Having teachers and parents read the same book this summer was to help strengthen the community.  Writing a school song was meant to build community.  Encouraging attendance at sporting events, fall festival, and the end-of-year party all help build a haimish culture.  Further, Sandy and David will be holding coffees so you can talk with and feel more comfortable with them.  All for haimish.

We will never get the balance between growth and haimish exactly right.  However, as glad as I am about Duke School’s improvements, I do not want our sense of community to lessen.  Help continue to strengthen Duke School’s sense of community.    

Friday, August 26, 2011

Reflection for August 26

Today started with the welcome back assembly, complete with our dragon mascot.  After the assembly, I visited a kindergarten class, where a new student introduced herself to me.  She mentioned that she had seen me at the assembly and then stated, “at first the dragon scared me, but I remembered I was good at making friends so I gave him a high five and shook his hand.”  That is bravery and that is the kind of problem solving I wish for all of our students.    

Riff: August 26

For those who don’t know, Duke School adopted a new school song last year--written by the class of ’15 in response to a contest.  After a summer of not hearing the song, I heard it twice in the last two days--today at the welcome back assembly and most wonderfully at the conclusion of the PSO meeting last night.  It was great seeing our core volunteers join to share in the Duke School spirit.  

Clearly the song is important to me (and I would argue), to the students and at least some parents.  Why?  In many ways, the school song helps create community.  It is something that Duke School’s community shares uniquely among themselves.  It helps draw us together in spirit and emotion which is important.  And it does this without demonizing others.  Often symbols that draw communities together do it by condemning another group.  Because I root for the Yankees, I hate the Red Sox, by definition.  A school song leaves no enemies, it just creates friends.  

See the lyrics of the school song below and hear the Duke School community singing it.  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Reflection for August 24

Reflection for August 24:  On school’s first day do I focus on earthquakes and hurricanes or rather beginnings.  I chose beginnings.  The campus was alive again with energy and enthusiasm.  Classes from 1—8 were greeting and getting to know one another.  I asked a 7th grader how today was and she responded, “I learned so much, my head hurts.”  

My wish for the year: May all of our students’ heads hurt from so much knowledge and may all the hearts grow from gaining so much wisdom.  

Reflection for August 23

As a new year starts I am trying to use my blog in different ways.  My plan for this year is to write more often, two to three times a week, and to employ different types of entries.  Most regularly I hope to write a brief reflection, almost a tweet, though perhaps longer than 140 characters.  The second type of piece will be a riff, brief thoughts and conclusions about a reflection.  The third type will be a traditional magazine article piece about once a month.

Reflection for August 23:  It was great seeing students and parents reuniting after summer.  Children calling out to one another; parents with large smiles and big hellos.  Anticipation is running high and everyone is rejuvenated, looking forward to a great year.  This is one reason schoolwork is so rewarding.